Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Clash of Cultures: The airing of dirty...duvets.

I woke up yesterday incredibly ill. The kind of ill that I am well accustomed to. No, not morning sickness, as that has only been my pleasure four times. But, the unmistakable symptoms of strep throat. Which now have been my pleasure 5 times, in the last 12 months, along with one bout of Laryngitis.

It's not a fun illness, and Martin and I will be seriously discussing having my tonsils removed before we leave in three months since the last thing I want to do is go through surgery the minute we step off the plane in a foreign (to me) country.  Luckily, you don't need your tonsils to work in order to type...

Bed Linens. After two days of chills and sweats, mine were put to good use and now thoroughly covered in strep throat ickiness. As my children are being taken care of by others as I wait for the antibiotics to do their magic I at least have the time and energy to change the sheets on my bed and air out the comforter.

Duvet, pillows, and blanket airing out on our playscape. 

There was a fly on my comforter when I took this picture! A fly!! See what happens when you air stuff outside?! YUCK!

And this got me to thinking. In just about every Polish yard or terrace you will find this....

...from time to time. The airing out of bed linens.  Now this could just be Texas. This could just be me. But we never did this growing up. Our neighbors never did this growing up. I'm pretty sure our HOA would have a fit if we tried to do this. But in Poland that *is* what you do. Everyone does it, all the time. At any given moment, driving down any street, there will be several homes with comforters and pillows hanging out windows, looped over terrace railings, and hanging on the "bar thingy (the Polish word eludes me but there is a word for it, I'm sure of it)..."

The big metal bars. The picture is blurry because it had the least amount of people in it and I wanted to use one that didn't show too many family members without asking their permission. I hope Kasia and Karolina will forgive me! (taken 7 years ago)

It is expressly for throwing the duvet and pillows over the bars and letting them air out. As well as beating rugs and what not. Again, not something that I really grew up doing. We vacuumed the rugs and then maybe shook them out but never really beat them.

Back to the bed linens themselves.

The beds are made with a fitted sheet and a duvet with a duvet cover, that's it. No regular sheet in between the duvet and the fitted sheet. Ever.

I remember commenting on this the first time I slept on a bed in Poland. I remarked how there was no sheet between me and the comforter. I thought it was kind of icky. I was taught that the sheet between the fitted and the comforter was to keep the comforter from actually touching your body so you don't have to wash it as often, especially since a lot of the comforters I had growing up were "dry-clean" only or wouldn't really get clean in the washer.

It really is just a cultural thing, and I suppose one that is more European than expressly Polish. I do know that my mother, from whom I learned all my homemaking skills, would never make a bed without a fitted and regular sheet. And I dare say she might find it a bit tacky to have your personal bed linens airing out for all to see. But that's how they do it, and that's how we'll do it. (usually I just wash everything in my super huge washing machine, but we all know that would never work).

In Poland, do the sheet sets come with a regular sheet too and they never get used or is the set a fitted sheet and then a duvet cover to fit the correct size mattress and duvet? 

Guess I'll find out the first time I buy sheets. And I guess we'll have to install one of those bar thingy's in our backyard, which are clearly good for so many other things than just airing out your dirty duvet. I can just imagine how many different ways the boys will find to injure themselves...


  1. Yeah, that is totally a gymnastics tool. For realz.

  2. The bar is called "trzepak". They don't beat carpets out there? You live in a strange country!

    1. Yes, trzepak! I said the word right after you posted this and Martin laughed and then was impressed that I knew the word. I gave you all the credit. America is a weird country although I'm sure people beat rugs here. We grew up with carpet and the only rugs we had were so large I don't know that my mother could move them (or the furniture on top) by herself in order to take them outside. Regardless, we had no special bar just for beating rugs. I figure, if nothing else you could hang a sheet over that thing, tack it into the ground, and it would make a killer fort!

  3. Hi Olivia,
    I do not know how it works in the part of Poland you are living, but my mom is airing out comforters and pillows between washes, yes, you take off duvet and wash with fitted sheet and pillowcases weekly.She also airs out comforter and pillows before putting new sheets on.... and I still remember how great and fresh they smell when you lay in bed
    (I live in US now and treat my bedding your way:) Best wishes in accommodating to new life style. JoEl

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment! I am looking forward to things like airing out the comforter and pillows. I am. It makes it seems a bit more like *living* life. You know?

  4. Being divided by a common language words like "comforter" go beyond me, so all I can offer is that, in my experience, here duvets are put in cases and washed for new guests. Saying that, I've not only seen that in Poland.

    I've hardly seen anyone hang out their bedding in the 3.5 years I've lived here.

  5. No way! They hang out those duvets and pillows weekly! I've always commented on how it seems like everyone does it at the same time. I think I just notice different things than perhaps someone that lives there full time.

  6. Answering to your question in bold, it's the latter. The duvet cover plays the role of the sheet between you and the comforter and is changed together with the sheet and pillow case. A typical (minimal) set comes with a sheet, pillowcase and a duvet cover.
    Hanging of bed linens out of the window is probably specific to southern Poland - I have never seen this in Wrocław.
    We air our bed linens on the clothes lines in the garden, none of our neighbors do that.
    Good luck with your move. I went through a similar one 3 years earlier (from Massachusetts to Wrocław with wife an 3 kids after 15 years in the USA). Quite an adventure, but it ended well.

    1. Thank you for answering my question! That is exactly what I wanted to know...I am glad the duvet comes with the set and that makes sense since it does, as you say, act as the "other sheet." I didn't know tht this particular practice was a Southern Poland thing but that makes sense if others don't see it often in other areas. Thanks for the comment. I'm glad your move ended well!

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  8. Excuse me, I used my wrong "handle" then.

    I get it now. Firstly, in cities there's pollution, so hanging duvets out isn't the best thing to do. As I live in a city I can't remember seeing it here. Secondly, and I thank my wife for this information, people who do it have duvets made from feathers. As less people have such duvets now, less people are doing it.

    1. This all makes sense. I hadn't really thought about the pollution factor.

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